Yearbook of the United Nations, 2004. Part 1, Political and security questions. Chapter 6, Middle East
The political and security situation in the Middle East in 2004 was characterized by a stalled peace process and continuing high levels of violence. Throughout the year, both Palestinians and Israelis suffered from violence and ever-mounting death tolls. However, by the end of the year, there were some signs of dialogue and cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian authorities. The Quartet, a coordinating mechanism for international peace efforts, comprising the Russian Federation, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations, continued its efforts to promote the road map initiative as the best solution to the conflict. The road map, which was endorsed by the Security Council in 2003, aimed to achieve progress through parallel and reciprocal steps by Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the political, security, economic, humanitarian and institution-building areas, under an international monitoring system. Despite those efforts, little progress was made in the road map's implementation. In February 2004, Israel's Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, announced a unilateral initiative to withdraw all Israeli civilian settlements, military forces and installations from the Gaza Strip and from an area in the northern part of the West Bank. The Quartet welcomed the plan, which was officially approved by the Israeli Knesset in October. Meanwhile, the situation on the ground continued to deteriorate, especially in the Gaza Strip. Israeli mounted several military operations, while the PA, for its part, failed to halt attacks against Israelis emanating from territories under its control. In May, the Rafah area in Gaza was subjected to a major Israeli military operation, “Operation Rainbow”, aimed at preventing weapons smuggling between Gaza and Egypt. Israeli military bulldozers demolished hundreds of houses in order to widen the border area (known as the Philadelphi route) between Rafah and Egypt. In response to the deteriorating situation, the Security Council, in May, called on Israel to respect its obligations under international humanitarian law and not to undertake demolition of homes contrary to that law. Amonth-long siege in and around the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun in July left behind broken buildings and flattened crops. On 28 September, a massive military operation was launched in the northern Gaza Strip, particularly in the densely populated towns of Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun and the Jabaliya refugee camp, home to over 100,000 refugees. Over 80 Palestinians were killed and more than 300 were injured within a week. Other Palestinian cities, towns and refugee camps (Bethlehem, Jenin, Khan Yunis, Zeitoun, Balata refugee camp) also suffered incursions and blockades, as the crisis intensified, hindering the work of humanitarian aid workers. Israel carried out extrajudicial killings throughout the year, killing, among others, the spiritual leader of the Palestinian Islamist organization Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, in March, and Abdel Aziz AlRantisi, a political leader of Hamas, in April. On 11 November, the President of the PA, Yasser Arafat, died of natural causes in Paris. President Arafat had been confined throughout most of 2004 to his headquarters compound in Ramallah under de facto house arrest. Following Mr. Arafat's death, security cooperation between Israel and the PA resumed and Israel scaled back military activity in areas under the Authority's control. Palestinian presidential elections were scheduled to take place in January 2005. Concerned about the continued deterioration of the situation in the region, the Security Council convened on a monthly basis during the year, and at times even more frequently, to discuss the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. On 25 March, a draft resolution, by which the Council would have condemned the killing of Sheikh Yassin, as well as all terrorist attacks against civilians, was not adopted due to the negative vote of a permanent Council member, nor was a 5 October draft resolution which would have demanded the immediate cessation of all military operations in northern Gaza and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from that area. The International Court of Justice (ICJ), on 9 July, rendered an advisory opinion on the legal consequences arising from the construction of a separation wall by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as requested by the General Assembly in December 2003. The Court, among other things, found that the route of the wall was contrary to international law and that Israel was under an obligation to terminate the construction, to dismantle parts already built and to make reparations for all damage caused to Palestinian property. On 30 June, Israel's Supreme Court ruled, among other things, that sections of the wall required re-routing, and the Israeli Government declared that it would abide by the Court's ruling. Meanwhile, construction of the wall continued throughout the year. The General Assembly convened its resumed tenth emergency special session in July to discuss the item “Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory”. It adopted a resolution which acknowledged the ICJ advisory opinion and demanded that Israel comply with its legal obligations as defined in the opinion. International attention focused on Lebanon in early September when the Lebanese Parliament amended the constitution to extend President Emile Lahoud's six-year term, which was about to expire, by another three years. The Syrian Arab Republic, which maintained a large military presence in Lebanon, supported the move. The amendment was adopted the day after the Security Council adopted a resolution calling for free and fair presidential elections in Lebanon and for the full withdrawal of foreign forces from the country and the disbanding and disarmament of all militias. Syria redeployed some of its troops, but by the end of the year had not withdrawn all of its troops from Lebanon. In October, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri resigned from his post and was replaced by Omar Karami. In southern Lebanon, Israeli forces and their main Lebanese opponent, the paramilitary group Hizbullah, continued to face each other across the Blue Line, the provisional border drawn by the United Nations following the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon in 2000. Israeli violations of Lebanese airspace continued, while Hizbullah, on a number of occasions, directed anti-aircraft fire at Israeli villages across the Blue Line. The first municipal elections in southern Lebanon since the Israeli withdrawal of 2000 were held in May, with a high voter turnout. The mandates of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon and of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights were extended twice during the year, and the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization continued to assist both peacekeeping operations in their tasks. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East continued to provide education and health and social services to over 4 million Palestinian refugees living both in and outside camps in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. With the Government of Switzerland, the Agency, in June co-hosted its first major international conference since its inception. During the year, the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories reported to the Assembly on the situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People continued to mobilize international support for the Palestinians.
Yearbook of the United Nations, 2004. v. 58; Vol. 58
This item appears in the following Collection(s)